Book 18 in my challenge to read one book (I haven’t read before) a fortnight in 2012 is Virals by Kathy Reichs.
Reichs is the author of a series of popular novels featuring forensic expert Dr Tempe Brennan, and her work also inspired the television show Bones. I’ve read neither those novels nor watched Bones, so Virals, the first in a series of books aimed at young adults, was my first foray into the world of forensic science as told by Reichs.
Living on a secluded island off Charleston in South Carolina, Tory Brennan (niece to Tempe) and her friends Ben, Shelton and Hi spend their time feeling like outcasts at school and being way too clever for their own good at home.
The group all have parents who work in or around a research facility on a neighbouring island, and on one fateful trip there, after yet another hostile encounter with lead scientist Dr Karsten, the group discover an abandoned dog tag, which leads them to human remains in a grave and the rescue of a wolfdog puppy with a serious illness, both of which will change their lives forever.
The group are thrust into the midst of trying to solve a decades-old murder, and find they can get no help from any adults. Forced to figure it out on their own, all while displaying symptoms of a mysterious illness, the group get ever deeper into danger.
Virals is a great read, fast paced enough to keep you interested and detailed enough to give you an insight into what the teenagers are doing but not enough so that you get lost in the science of it all.
The illness affecting the four main characters is believable enough, as it builds slowly over the course of the book, but the way the mystery the group are solving ends is ridiculous, with its teenage femme fatale-like villain who springs out of nowhere.
To me, Virals is a modern-day Famous Five mystery. Reichs replaces Enid Blyton two girls, two boys and a dog with one girl and four boys, and she keeps the dog. And just like in the Famous Five books, there are some handy islands around for the group to get in trouble and stumble upon a crime.
Virals is an easy read and a good introduction to the work of Reichs. I’ll be checking her adult novels out in the future.